After a long and harsh winter, Midsummer, or Juhannes, marks the start of warm sunny weather in Europe’s most unlikely summer holiday destination: Finnish Lapland.
Midsummer kicks off at midnight on June 22nd (Midsummer Eve), aka, the brightest day of the year near the Arctic Circle. Nights are almost nonexistent, and both locals and tourists melt into dreamy never-ending days that are filled with sunshine, bonfires, lakeside parties, and warm summer vibes.
Sold? Us too. Here are just a few awesome ways to spend Midsummer in the far far north:
Celebrate your Arctic arrival by nursing a craft beer on a sunny, summertime terrace. Café Koti’s rooftop bar is a prime spot to sip on artisan beers and to chat with friendly Finnish locals. Stay for a day and hit the city’s beach for an invigorating dip followed by a feast of local food. Roka is great for its modern take on Lappish food and low-key atmosphere, as is Nili.
Pro tip: Even before you land at Rovaniemi airport, you’re greeted by the region’s official mascot. Peek below the clouds and spot a street plan in the shape of a reindeer’s head, complete with antlers. Sure, we’re here for summer. But that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate a glimpse of winter in Santa’s official hometown.
Sink into the slow groove as you pass endless forests and smell the sweet scent of pine resin on your drive into the woods. Not only does Lapland’s scenery come straight from the pages of a storybook, but its wooden cabins ad cottages sum up images of The Brothers Grimm. Most cottages feature decks to kick back on and are surrounded by nothing else but nature. Some even come with their own rowing boat so you can cast a rod and return with fresh fish for supper. Go for a cottage near Pallas- Yllästunturi or Urho Kekkonen national parks, the latter being one of the country’s largest, covering more than 2500 sq km.
Pro tip: In low season, cottages are as cheap as (wood) chips. A log cabin that accommodates 5 and includes a sauna and fire place can go for as little as €300 ($337 USD) a week.
In Finland, Everyman’s Rights rule the roost. This means you can camp, swim, fish, and forage in almost all free spaces, even if they’re privately owned. Foraging will quickly become second nature as blueberries, lingonberries, cranberries, and cloudberries fill up the forests everywhere you walk. Cloudberries boast a truffle-like status in Finland because they’re rare, brief of season, and positively addictive, which is also why Fins put everyday tasks on hold to gather as much of them as possible during Midsummer season. In fact, Ranua, the cloudberry capital, hosts a festival to fete these little clouds of ‘Arctic gold’ in August every year.
With 8 national parks and 12 serene wilderness areas, all green and buzzing in summer, you’ll find nature (and marked walking trails) at every turn. The sense of remoteness, inhaling the world’s cleanest air (fact!), and big skies are what’s most memorable here, as is the blissful silence. You’ll hear nothing but the wind catching the tree tops and birdsong, unless there’s a brown bear snapping twigs with his fat, furry feet, or a big bad wolf on the prowl. Landscapes here are ever-changing: send your Insta account into overdrive with sceneries ranging from mighty fells and vast bogs to forested areas, all featuring every tone of green on the color wheel.
Pro tip: Whether you embark on a 5 or 25 km trail, a visit to an open-wilderness hut is a must. Thirsty? No need to bring a filter. Enjoy all-you-can-drink water that flows through the fells.
Soaking up summer like a Fin means spending lazy evenings at the edge of a lake and enjoying post sauna dips while listening to joyous, all-night-long birdsong. The only time the Fins pause the slow life in summer is during Juhannes. This epic celebration is usually held on the third weekend in June, and is an excuse for lakeside bonfires, drinking games, skinny dipping, and all-you-can-eat feasts of grilled sausages served with mustard and washed down with beer. You can even host your own party at your log cabin, which will undoubtedly be enhanced by the flickering lights and sounds of laughter from neighbouring fires.
Alternatively, you can head to Levi or Pyhä: both have a restaurant on top of a fell that opens for midsummer. Expect to be warmed by the mother of all bonfires and large groups of locals in high spirits. You’ll be one of very few visitors to make it up there, but don’t worry, the Fins are a friendly bunch and always at the ready to slap you on the back and include you in the conversation. If dips in blue lakes and sipping cider under a sun that never sets sounds like music to your ears, it’s settled. You’re going to Finnish Lapland this summer.